GROWTH AND SUCCESS IN LIFE – Lessons Learned at the Feet of Jesus – Sermon on Mount (Part 11)
Jesus pronounced in this His first public discourse and teaching how to be happy and successful in life. This is happy in the deepest sense, not just satisfied from a good meal or a winning business or life event but a deep settled, blessed, what one author called superlatively blessed life. This is fullness consistent with our design as God’s people and in a manner pleasing to Him.
So far in this first of Jesus’ sermons after selecting the disciples, he sounds like He is putting together less than a winning team. He has lifted up the virtues of poverty, grief, meekness, mercy-giving, purity in heart, of being a peacemaker, bracing for the cost of this commitment (persecution for righteousness) and now, by transition, the influence of kingdom pilgrims on the world.
The first nine beatitudes speak to the work and attitude of the world toward us. Now, in transition, the opposite – the influence of us on the world. By way of transition, Jesus both teaches about the right understanding of the Old Testament and the standard required of those who want to believe in and follow Jesus.
Matthew 5:17-2017“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear until everything is accomplished. 19Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
1. The Sweet – Understanding the Old Testament and Jesus. The first and most persistent criticism that Jesus’ critics leveled at him was that he was and is a heretic, he rejects the traditional understanding of Judaism, and he contemns the religious leaders around him. And they were right in part! In Jesus’ day, religious phonies came out of every temple and synagogue corner. They promoted themselves, lived lives of hypocrisy, and had two sets of rules with laying burdens on others they were unwilling to carry themselves. So, by contrast, Jesus says, I have not come to abolish [the Law], but to fulfill it. In other words, the sweet message of the Old Testament, and the 513 laws of the Torah, was that a proper understanding points to God and to heaven. No guesswork needed.
2. The Sour – Accomplishing the Prophetic Message and Jesus. Contrary to the traditional pattern of picking and choosing what was followed from the Old Testament, Jesus reaffirmed every detail and promised completion and fulfillment without any diminishment or loss. Until everything is accomplished. Jesus’ point here is straightforward, and the hard message will be that condemnation will come to those who cannot fulfill the complete requirements of the Law. Yet, rather than dismissing or ignoring the standard of the Law, Jesus says this will be the guidepost that directs the attention of the believer and pilgrim to Him and to the Kingdom.
John Calvin wrote: If we intend to reform affairs that are in a state of disarray, we should… Convince the people that we are not opposing the Eternal Word of God…or injure the faith of the godly…or have any pretense of novelty. In other words, to clearly understand the message of the Kingdom of God, we must strip away the phone, get back down to bare metal, understand the real structure of the Bible and the promise of redemption and then follow those instructions carefully.
In other words, in all that Jesus was and was set to do in his three years of public ministry, he had not come to set aside or annul the Old Testament but to fulfill it. These instructions set the stage for the proper understanding of life circumstances that will make up the rest of this Sermon on the Mount – anger, murder, divorce, revenge, enemies, giving to others, prayer, not worrying, judging others, and investing in a life that reflects wisdom for the pilgrim and his journey. These three chapters of Matthew are life changing – hang on. We will walk together through them and come out with a message of encouragement and hope.
— John Moore